"…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…." Colossians 1:9b
Have you ever done an optical illusion puzzle online where you have to stare at something and then respond with what you initially see? Sometimes they ask you to record the first three words you see or perhaps the number hidden in the illusion. But after you look up the answers, often you find there was something else hidden in the picture that somehow you missed the first time.
Nobody likes the feeling of being duped. Though it’s easy to shrug off a silly online puzzle, it’s tough when real-life struggles function in the same way. At first glance, we can only see what’s most apparent to us in a difficult circumstance. Pain or unresolved conflict is hard to miss. But sometimes, our troubles seem to get the best of us. Have you ever wondered if there is more to our struggles than meets the eye?
What is hidden in our struggles?
In the book of Colossians, Paul and Timothy write to their brothers and sisters in the faith to encourage them to remember the hope of the Gospel found only in Jesus Christ. Paul and Timothy stressed that to “live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing in every way, “ the Colossians would need to be “…strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that [they] may have great endurance and patience.” 
To endure the difficulties of our lives, we must draw strength from God.
But the specific strength the Colossians needed to live God-glorifying lives was “the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” . This knowledge was critical to their endurance.
If you think about it, our first response to struggle often is to ask God, “why?” The pain almost always demands our attention and the cause for it. But what can make matters even worse is when we go to God with our “why” and come away empty-handed. My prayer is that we will never let this stop us from going to God with our pain and questions.
But consider this. Instead of asking, “Why did God allow this to happen?” perhaps we could ask, “What is God’s purpose with this trial?” In other words, instead of looking to throw blame in God’s direction for our troubles, maybe we could consider what He means to do through them. There might be something hidden in our difficult situation He wants to show us.
When you think about it, the “Why God. Why?” question only seems to circle again and again without end. But when we gain understanding about “what” God has meant to do through the difficulty, we can come out of endless circles and begin walking toward healing or resolution.
Strength to endure will come when we seek God’s wisdom in the greater purpose within our struggles.
Stand firm in the strength and hope of the Gospel
Paul told the Colossians to be “established and firm” in their faith.  Paul knew that if the Colossians were to neglect to seek God’s wisdom and strength in their lives, it would be possible for them to develop doubt and even “move from the hope held out in the gospel.” 
So practically speaking, if we look at our trials, we can potentially despair when we fail to understand God’s will in them. However, we can ask Him for wisdom about His will in our difficulties and be strengthened to patiently endure them. Encouragement and wisdom found in His Word can guide us in these things.
Bearing fruit in the struggle
The ultimate goal in gaining the knowledge of God’s will and living worthy of the Lord was so the Colossians would “[bear] fruit in every good work growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…” 
So even if we don’t understand everything about our hardship, we can know that one of its purposes is that we bear fruit. The question for us is, what kind of fruit are we bearing in our struggles? Are we drowning in complaints, grumbles, or even despair? If so, we need to remember that when we seek the knowledge and wisdom of God’s will in our circumstances, we can instead bear the fruit of good works, wisdom, power, patience, and endurance. 
What fruit are we bearing?
Good teachers practice what they preach. And Paul and Timothy were good teachers because they learned from the master teacher (Jesus) himself. In Colossians 1:24, Paul mentions, “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
As recorded in 2 Corinthians 16:33, Paul elaborates on his many hardships while trying to spread the Gospel, including shipwrecks, beatings, and prison. Yet, in many of Paul’s letters to the early church, we find him repeatedly rejoicing. In letter after letter, we find Paul bearing the fruit of praise!
How is this possible? It seems so unnatural to rejoice when we are in pain. How did Paul manage this? It is because he had gained wisdom and knowledge about God’s will through Jesus Christ. As he looked at the example of Jesus, he learned to patiently endure his troubles. Paul seemed to have a vast and intimate understanding of the nature of Christ’s suffering in furthering the Gospel.
Understanding the greater will of God
While predicting his death, Jesus told his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12: 24-25 NIV
Christ demonstrated the greater will of God in his struggles and suffering. Paul understood this about Jesus, and he rejoiced in the ability to do the same with his own life.
We can learn a lot from Paul’s example. It’s not about the pain and the hurt, and it’s not about the inconvenience of not getting a “good life.” To him, it was about the furtherance of the Gospel and saving souls from an eternity apart from God’s grace. For us, it is likewise about the greater glory of God in our challenging life circumstances.
Like Jesus, Paul could see beyond the apparent first glance of pain in a hardship. He personally came to understand that his strength was gained from the knowledge of the Lord that came from a deeply personal relationship with Him. And from Christ and by Christ, he patiently endured.
At first glance, our difficult life circumstances may appear that God has had it in for us. That He is mad or doesn’t care about how we are hurting. But with a second take and lots of prayer and Scripture, we see His intentionality in our trials. His wisdom will help us understand more of His purpose and recognize the potential for our growth and His glory with our response. And ultimately, we will see the possibility of greater holiness and likeness with Christ.
This was Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. May we likewise be encouraged and strengthened to seek the wisdom and knowledge of God’s will in our lives especially when it’s painful. Through Christ, may we stand firm in the faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to further the hope of the Gospel and God’s glory even amid hardship and struggles.
 Colossians 1:10
 Colossians 1:11
 Colossians 1:9
 Colossians 1:23
 Colossians 1:23
 Colossians 1:10-11
 Colossians 1:10-11